Secrets of the Sky
To Sail Black Waters


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Newton USER (46 Reviews)
December 16th, 2013 | 12 replies


Release Date: 10/08/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Solid songwriting and brilliant pacing make "To Sail Black Waters" a powerful debut.

At its best, doom metal is all about atmosphere – not the kind you get from diminished-chord synths and primeval recording quality, but the way an album changes your outlook on the world around you. Ominous becomes welcoming. Bright colors become offensive. Cold becomes invigorating. Drowning sounds like a beautiful way to go when the time comes, and to that end, Secrets of the Sky’s debut is a positively suffocating slab of blackened doom. Hovering somewhere between My Dying Bride’s tortured overtures and Agalloch’s mellifluous black metal, To Sail Black Waters moves like a powerful beast – never at more than a crawl, but with tremendous momentum and poise.

“Winter” sets the table with a run-through of the album’s dynamics. The nine-minute piece opens with a foreboding clean riff surrounded by sparse, fading percussion. Once the motif is established, it gives way to a 6/8 dirge of throaty guitar and singer Garret Gazay’s low, distorted vocals. Though most of To Sail sits in largo-adagio tempos, Secrets’ two-part riffs play with the timing between percussion and guitar leads to draw the music forward. The main riff of “Winter” returns after a creepy whispered interlude (“I accept your gift great father / Speak to me deep in my sleep / For I shall carry out thine will / Every (every) whisper…”) to reestablish the song’s lurching groove, accompanied at various times by swirling lead guitar and layered howling. By the time the final verse resolves to reprise the song’s intro, it has crept up to a dull roar that doesn’t register as a climax until it’s absent. Suddenly you want that riff back, but the album has moved on without you.

Despite having songs averaging longer than ten minutes, Secrets makes each memorable, or at least distinguishable, by changing its formula from piece to piece. Gazay throws clean vocals in the mix alongside his growls and hollow rasp on “Decline,” while power-chord riffing gives way to dissonant harmonics. “Sunrise,” whose initial riff perhaps falls short of the rest, is buoyed by a pair of perfectly placed and uplifting (as doom metal goes) choruses. While Ryan Healy’s bass playing is audible throughout, he never really makes his presence known until the title track; “Black Waters,” however opens with a bass riff taken straight from John Williams’ nightmares, as if to signify that this is the album’s climax. Indeed, everything about “Black Waters” screams of an ending, down to its chanted chorus of, “For prepared is my soul for this life to end / To sail black waters to the resting place / So bring me the death that I desire.” After pounding through those titular stormy waters for ten minutes, the song gives way to a haunting refrain that closes the album perfectly.

Secrets of the Sky isn’t doing anything revolutionary yet, but based on the early returns that’s probably for the best – it’s nice to hear a band focused on getting the finer points of its craft right instead of trying to invent a new one. As a whole, the songwriting on To Sail Black Waters is well-balanced and understated in the way that made bands like Neurosis legends. While that may be setting an awfully high bar, Secrets of the Sky already has a strong foundation and an album that gets better with each listen. Though the band cites The Ocean, Opeth, Isis, and Agalloch as inspirations, those names probably wouldn’t come to mind on first listen; they are, however, good comparables in that large-scale composition skills and dynamics control have been paramount to their success. To Sail Black Waters is among the more eminently listenable doom/sludge metal efforts of the year, and makes it easy to forget that Secrets of the Sky is only in its third year as a band. Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for a fresh face in the scene.



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user ratings (10)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
pedro70512
December 15th 2013


3653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Feedback welcomed. First posted on MuzikDizcovery.com

Digging: Taravana - A Visible Chill

Wizard
December 15th 2013


19644 Comments


Read this in Decibel and they loved it. Need to hear it.

As for the review, well written and no glaring mistakes either. Omaha will probably tear it up though cause he's a douchey writer like that.



Digging: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
December 16th 2013


7127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Remind me to give this a look over in the morning. Both the review and music, way to spike some interest.

pedro70512
December 16th 2013


3653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

*ring ring buzz buzz*

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 16th 2013


8946 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

listening now

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 17th 2013


8946 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

not bad

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
December 17th 2013


7127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

that's one way to kill an average : ]

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 17th 2013


8946 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

one day people will just stop recommending me music i think

pedro70512
December 17th 2013


3653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah I'll make a note of that. 2.5 right in the self-esteem. where's Captain when you need him?

pedro70512
December 17th 2013


3653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

at least say it's well written so i can sleep tonight

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 17th 2013


8946 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

well sure the review is fine

pedro70512
December 17th 2013


3653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

gracias



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